Friday, August 2, 2013

Update on evidence analysis

Here are two posts about evaluating evidence that I wrote last November, Classifying the Source and Who, Why and When.  I need to update the information I gave you.  New categories have been added to the Evidence Analysis Process Map* which is used in the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Original  - A record usually made at the time of the event or shortly thereafter.  It is the first document to record said event. 

Derivative – Works based on original documents.  This includes transcriptions, abstracts, indexes, hand written copies, etc.

Authored (new) – Authored works include compiled genealogies, case studies, histories, narratives etc.

Primary – The informant was actually an eyewitness to the event

Secondary – The informant was not present at the event, his/her testimony is hearsay

Indeterminable (new) – If we don’t know who the informant was, or we don’t know whether or not the informant was present at the event

Direct – The information answers a research question directly

Indirect – When you have two or more pieces of evidence that suggest an answer to your research question but none of the pieces answers the question directly.  The multiple pieces must be used together (a circumstantial case)

Negative (new) – When the evidence does not provide any information at all in relation to your research question but it can, nevertheless, be used as evidence

Why is this important?  This method of classification helps you to decide how much weight you want to give to each individual source that you have.  This type of analysis is part of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).

Here are a couple of things to remember:

  • A single source (let’s say a death certificate for example) can have many pieces of evidence on it that have to be analyzed separately. 
  • Just because a piece of evidence directly answers your research question doesn’t mean it is true. 

I highly recommend the book, Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS which explains this process of analysis better than anything else I have seen.

*This tool was developed by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  You can read more about Elizabeth on her two websites, Historic Pathways and Evidence Explained.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

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